Stage is set for new festival format in Leeds


After a 15-year run, a drop in audience support for Leeds JFest International, a celebration of Jewish culture, has led to organisers testing new ground with a changed format.

The annual event is now heading in a different direction with a rolling season of varied performances.

Festival director Ellie Ruhan says a drop in audience figures has prompted the staging of "stand-alone shows every few months to give supporters a simple alternative to the five-day festival of the past".

She added: "In the past we've offered anything between 10 to 22 shows leaving audiences spoilt for choice. This created a dilemma as to which days supporters could dedicate when travelling into town, spurring us to go for change."

Commencing in April, hit show The Simon and Garfunkel Story attracted 300 supporters to Leeds College of Music with the performance "going down a treat" with a sell-out performance.

The brainchild of former Leeds emissary Yehuda Bergman, the festival was launched in 2001 at Leeds Beth Hamidrash Hagadol Synagogue. The five-day event was then staged at various locations in the city, and in its heyday attracted a footfall of 2,500, but as the years progressed this was reduced to around 1,500.

Next in line is a night of klezmer, gypsy music and jazz with the Don Kipper ensemble on June 4 at Etz Chaim Synagogue, while other acts will be staged in Leeds during the year.

The JFest season is run by Makor, the city's Jewish culture office, and is funded through UJIA, local sponsors and fundraising events.

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